Although the rigid bronchoscope can scratch or tear the airway or damage the vocal cords, the risk for bronchoscopy is limited. The main risks relate to the anesthesia necessary for
performing the procedure. These risks depend on the health of the patient at the time of surgery. These risks usually can include
a drop in blood pressure, cardiac events,
stroke, and even death.
Complications from fiber optic bronchoscopy remain extremely low.
- Common complications may include shortness of breath, a drop in oxygen level during the procedure, chest pain, and cough.
- In addition, if a lung biopsy is necessary, it may cause leakage of air called a
pneumothorax and/or bleeding from the lung. Pneumothorax occurs in less than 1% of cases requiring lung biopsy. The vast majority of bleeding stops with local therapy such as wedging the bronchoscope into the airway that is bleeding and waiting for it to stop. It is an extremely rare event for a patient to need surgery following persistent bleeding and even less common for death.
- Often mild anesthesia referred to as conscious sedation is used to help make the procedure more comfortable. This form of anesthesia also has risks such as a drop in blood pressure or a decrease in breathing. The bronchoscopist or anesthesiologist must have the skill sets to overcome these issues to assure that the procedure is safe.
- It is important to note that lung tissue has no pain fibers, therefore biopsy and examination is usually painless and often only involves coughing. The outer surface of the lung is known as the pleura and this does contain pain fibers. When this area is inflamed or damaged, a sharp chest pain known as pleurisy develops. This may be a sign of air leaking from the lung, the pneumothorax.
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